Reverend McCormick started every sermon with a humorous anecdote. They were barely chuckle-worthy and quickly forgotten, but they served their purpose—they brought the congregation back from their thoughts about Mrs. White’s loud organ playing or considering which cafeteria to head to after church. In other words, he grabbed their attention. Then he hoped to keep it as he delivered his real message.
Your opening doesn’t have to be humorous, but telling a brief story is highly recommended (there’s no better way to quickly engage an audience).
Put your thinking cap on and create some potential openings. Here are a few writing prompts for writing the first sentence of your story, chapter, article, presentation, video, or speech:
A few example prompts to start your story:
Stories of a crisis or hardship:
When I heard that ____had happened, I knew nothing would ever be the same.
I woke up and for some reason, I just knew I could no longer go on with things the way they were.
I was ______[standing in line at the cinema] when I got a phone call that _______[made my knees buckle under me] and the next thing I knew I ________[had fallen into the arms of a stranger].
My client (or friend, whomever) didn’t know what to do…and he sounded desperate.
My wife looked at me and I could see absolute terror in her face.
I was on a deadline and I was out of options.
Stories of Inspiration:
Of all the [group of things/people] I’ve encountered in my life, the one that stands out the most is ________.
I had no idea I could [big achievement] until I [seemingly random situation]. (Then tell how improbable your path was that led to the achievement.)
Have you ever met someone whom you instantly just knew was going to change your life?
They say courage is not being fearless, but rather, having the fear and acting anyway. I found this out when ________[I woke up to a room full of thick, black, choking smoke.]
(Describe an incident you recovered from in a heroic way.] e.g. The sound was deafening. (or) The flash of light was blinding. (Some dramatic thing happened.) When I woke up (huge change had occurred). Six months later, _______ (positive transformation occurred).
The above are simple examples to get you thinking. You DO have many engaging stories to use to captivate your audience. Brainstorm as many as possible and try out your favorite ones to use as beginnings, then write out the whole story.
Start noticing when a speaker or writer captures your attention in the first five seconds. Was it a story they told? What kind of story? Did it make you laugh or melt your heart?
This is a LEARNABLE SKILL, so use these prompts to get started. It’s like walking up to a lion cub while holding a chicken leg…you’ll have them eating out of your hand!